The new central government of Libya has been hit on two fronts. Fighters loyal to former dictator Gaddafi hold onto their stronghold – while rioters in Benghazi kill US Ambassador Chris Stevens.
When Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was finally seized and brutally executed in his home town of Sirte he was trying to reach his final stronghold. This was the town of Bani Walid, 90 miles southeast of Tripoli.
His convoy was hit by NATO planes and he was forced to flee on foot. An out of control mob captured and tortured him, then beat him to death.
Bani Walid was the last town to be taken by the new government’s forces. Then, at the beginning of the year, it was re-taken by the Gaddafi fighters. They expelled the former rebels and hold the town as an enclave of anti-government territory. Bani Walid is isolated from the rest of Libya in a worrying sign that the central government is not in full control.
Now as riots spread across the Middle East in retaliation against the anti-muslim film made in the US, Ambassador Chris Stevens has been killed in Benghazi.
This deeply cynical film has provided ammunition for Muslims who believe the US and its allies will stop at nothing to attack their religion. The riots and attacks have been condemned by Arab leaders including the new Libyan government who held Stevens in high regard.
The Ambassador was caught in the attack on the Embassy as he and staff were forced to retreat to a villa in the centre of the compound.
Two bodyguards were shot at the entrance to the villa and Stevens rushed inside but was suffocated by fumes as the building was set alight. Eventually Government forces arrived and drove the rioters off.
Now the question is whether the government will move against the rioting mob – who will attract support through their opposition to the film. Another alternative is that US marines stationed in Tripoli will be used in action that could easily escalate and fuel more riots.
The downfall of Gadaffi and the setting up of a central government has been hailed as a success for NATO forces and the US. Now the backlash from one film with deeply suspicious motives could take Libya back to a war zone.
A man identified as a producer of the film is under protection at his home, just outside LA.